Researchers at the University of Sydney have received a large round of government funding to evaluate the effectiveness of two promising psychedelics as treatments for mental health conditions.
On Tuesday, the university said two research teams were granted a total of AUS$3.1 million (C$2.8 million) to study MDMA as treatment for combined alcohol use disorder and post traumatic stress disorder, and psilocybin-assisted therapy for anorexia nervosa.
The funding comes from the Medical Research Fund under the Australian government’s Innovative Therapies for Mental Illness Grant, which aims to accelerate global efforts to find new treatments for mental health conditions.
The MDMA trial, awarded nearly AUS$2 million (C$1.8 million) will be led by associate professor Kirsten Morley.
“There is a high rate of comorbidity between alcohol use disorders and post traumatic stress disorder which is associated with greater clinical impairment, poorer prognosis and greater treatment attrition,” Morley says in a statement.
“We urgently require innovative integrated treatments that can enhance outcomes for patients with these treatment resistant complexities.”
One promising agent that can enhance psychotherapy is MDMA, she adds.
For the psilocybin-assisted therapy trial, awarded AUS$1.2 million (C$1.1 million), faculty of science experts and researchers from the cannabis-focused Lambert Initiative are teaming up with eating-disorder research organization InsideOut Institute.
According to the statement, the trial will build on strong international collaborations to assess the safety and effectiveness of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for patients when conventional anorexia nervosa treatments haven’t worked.
We need to constantly remind ourselves that anorexia nervosa continues to have one of the highest mortality rates in psychiatry, explains professor Stephen Touyz, an eating disorder expert who works both at the university and InsideOut.
“It is an extremely debilitating and pervasive disorder that can result in immense suffering for those afflicted by it and a nightmare for those caring for a loved one or friend,” Touyz continues.
“It is hoped that this psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy trial will be able to demonstrate improved clinical outcomes, especially in those patients where other treatments have failed.”
What is particularly exciting with psychedelics is the political will for Australia to take an international lead in this area, as shown by this round of funding, says Iain McGregor from the Lambert Initiative.
“We are overjoyed to be working with a dream team of world-leading researchers from Imperial College, Johns Hopkins University and leading Australian universities on this incredibly significant trial.”